Raffertie has crafted a debut album with the clearest and most fruitful of purposes; to remind the listener that they are not alone. That's something that most people to whom music is very important will recognise - we all discovered albums in our youth that spoke directly to us, or so it seemed. It's a rather noble sentiment, and one that's resulted in a stunning debut album, 'Sleep of Reason.'
'I wanted to create an album listeners could empathise with,' Raffertie, AKA Benjamin Stefanski, says. 'Albums I listened to and connected with most when growing up, and indeed still now, were those that made me feel like I wasn't alone. That perhaps sounds quite sad, but that whole process of connection was ultimately what I felt drawing me into a lot of music. Catharsis, it seems to me, is the universal backbone of music. It's a process of coming to terms with our relative daemons.'
It's an eloquent statement for an equally eloquent album. 'Sleep of Reason' is rich, enigmatic and full of yearning, evocative audio paintings.
Album opener 'Undertow' sets out the record's intentions gloriously, its Berlin-era-Bowie sonics, electronic textures and explorative melody evoking a powerful mood that draws the listener in entirely.
'Sleep of Reason' is strongly informed by Stefanski's childhood in a British seaside town, the faded grandeur and aging population of which caused him to ruminate on mortality as a child. 'Parts of this album are about letting go of the worry of when something might happen, and instead embracing now.'
That statement goes some way to explaining the beguiling, addictive urgency of the album. The driving drums and startling melody of ‘Gagging Order’ reveal exactly why Raffertie has been hotly tipped by luminaries like Annie Mac and Huw Stephens. Those two DJs sit at either end of a wide axis that Raffertie straddles effortlessly. He’s made his most confident music to date for ‘Sleep of Reason,’ and there’s a sense here of a young master at work. There are few musicians out there capable of making a song like ‘Touching,’ which is about as deep as a song you can dance to gets.
Stefanski’s vocals – showcased powerfully on single ‘Build Me Up’ are a perfect compliment to his production. Lyrically minimal, they often centre around single, striking images, making them seem like incantations perfectly wedded to the music’s mood and mental subject matter.
‘Last Train Home’s’ ominous, glacial synths and verge-of-panic drums combine with a pulsing bass and emerging arpeggio to stunning effect. The song’s vocal is full of urgency, and there’s something edge-of-the-seat about it that’s truly extraordinary.
All this comes after several years as one of electronic music's most hardworking pioneers. Having set up his own label, Super, and discovered and released AlunaGeorge amongst others, he's also remixed Franz Ferdinand, Wolf Gang, Wild Beasts, Clock Opera and of course AlunaGeorge themselves. This is an artist with a love for the scene he's working in, and someone who wants to champion the other artists within it.
Like all the best albums, ‘Sleep of Reason’ demands to be listened to in full, to allow its themes, moods and textures to fully emerge and take grip. It’s also full of brilliant standalone songs. Listen to it how you will, but do listen – you won’t be disappointed.
Sleep Of Reason
2xLP + MP3 (ZEN194)
Sleep Of Reason
CD + MP3 (ZENCD194)